January 04, 2017 1:00 AM
RV producer to expand, add 425 jobs
LAGRANGE – A manufacturer of recreational and commercial vehicles plans to expand its operations at three facilities in LaGrange County.
The state of Indiana announced Tuesday that Forest River plans to create up to 425 new jobs by 2019.
The Elkhart company, which also operates several other Indiana facilities, plans to invest $6.7 million to establish operations in the LaGrange area, purchasing four existing facilities.
Renovations are taking place at three of the facilities, which were vacant for years, and the company plans to evaluate options for the fourth facility this year.
Operations are scheduled to begin in one facility by mid-January and two more by May.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Forest River Manufacturing up to $2.5 million in conditional tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans.
Indiana’s RV industry produces 80 percent of the world’s RVs, according to the IEDC.
Construction project spending rises again
U.S. builders boosted spending on construction projects for a second straight month in November, pushing activity to the highest level in more than a decade.
Construction spending rose 0.9 percent in November after a 0.6 percent increase in October, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. The increase reflected solid gains in home construction, nonresidential building and government construction activity.
The gains in all three categories pushed total construction to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.18 trillion, the highest point since April 2006, when a housing boom fueled building.
Economists believe construction will continue to show gains in 2017, reflecting a strong job market with unemployment at the lowest point in nine years.
Manufacturing last month best in ’16
U.S. manufacturing activity expanded for the fourth straight month in December, as new orders and production jumped in a positive sign for economic growth.
The Institute for Supply Management says its manufacturing index came in at 54.7 last month, up from 53.2 in November and the highest reading of 2016. Anything over 50 signals growth.
U.S. factories are steadily rebounding from a rough patch hit in late 2015 and early 2016.
The decline in energy prices caused cutbacks in orders for equipment and pipelines, while a stronger dollar and slower economic growth abroad hurt exports.
The ISM manufacturing index has topped 50 for nine of the last 10 months.
FDA investigating e-cigarette batteries
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is probing the dangers of exploding batteries in e-cigarettes, following dozens of reports of devices that have combusted, overheated or caught fire and sometimes injured users.
The agency announced a two-day public meeting for April, according to an online posting.
The Associated Press reported last month that 66 explosions were identified by the FDA in 2015 and early 2016.
E-cigarettes are hand-held devices that vaporize liquid nicotine. Their safety has not been extensively studied and there’s no scientific consensus on whether they help reduce rates of cigarette smoking.